Four Harlan County, Ky., relatives were sentenced today by U.S. District Judge Gregory Van Tatenhove for their roles in kidnapping and assaulting Kevin Pennington, a gay man. David Jason Jenkins, known as Jason, 39, received 30 years in prison, Anthony Ray Jenkins, 22, 17 years in prison, Mable Ashley Jenkins, known as Ashley, 20, 100 months in prison and Alexis LeeAnn Jenkins, 20, 8 years in prison.
In October 2012, a federal jury in London, Ky., convicted Jason Jenkins and Anthony Jenkins of kidnapping and conspiracy charges related to the April 4, 2011 assault of Pennington. The jury acquitted the men of violating the sexual orientation provision of the Matthew Shepard James Byrd Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act. Testimony at trial established that the two men, who are cousins, carried out the crime with help from their relatives – Ashley Jenkins and Alexis Jenkins, who both pleaded guilty prior to trial to aiding and abetting kidnapping and aiding and abetting the hate crime assault against Pennington. Both women testified against the defendants. The women’s guilty pleas to federal hate crime charges constituted the first federal convictions in the nation under the sexual orientation provision of the Matthew Shepard James Byrd Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act.
The evidence at trial established that the four relatives planned in advance of the assault to kidnap Pennington, take him to a remote location and beat him to death. After luring Pennington by false pretenses into a truck driven by Anthony Jenkins, the group drove Pennington up a deserted mountain road into Kingdom Come State Park, where they dragged Pennington into the road and beat him.
The evidence also established that Pennington escaped while the two men were searching in the back of the truck for a tire iron to use to kill Pennington. Pennington ran off the road and threw himself over a ledge, where he hid behind a rock until the group finally gave up searching for him and drove away. Pennington staggered part-way down the mountain, where he found a ranger shack, broke a window and called 911.
Ashley and Alexis Jenkins both testified that they and the men had agreed in advance to lure Pennington into the truck, drive him to a deserted area and beat him because of his sexual orientation. The women also testified that during the beating, they all used anti-gay slurs and that the group intended to kill Pennington.
“As the court’s sentence shows, this was a vicious criminal act. The Department of Justice will continue to use every tool in our arsenal to vindicate the rights of victims of violent crimes,” said Roy L. Austin Jr., Deputy Assistant Attorney General, Civil Rights Division. “The Department will also continue to use the Shepard Byrd Act to vigorously investigate hate crimes allegations and work with our state and local law enforcement partners in their efforts to identify these crimes.”
“Justice imposes a heavy price on those who engage in the sort of gratuitous violence that led to this prosecution,” said Kerry B. Harvey, U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Kentucky. “The defendants’ crimes were brutal and cruel. They fully deserve the sentences delivered by the Court. The message is clear-our society will not tolerate such horrific conduct. The team of dedicated professionals who investigated and successfully prosecuted this case are to be congratulated for their fine work. We also thank our state and local partners who played an important role in achieving a just result in this matter.”
“We are pleased that this matter has been successfully resolved and that justice has been done,” said Perrye K. Turner, Special Agent in Charge of the FBI in Kentucky. “We feel the length of the sentences sufficiently reflects the seriousness of these violent acts”
This case was investigated by Special Agents Anthony Sankey and Mike Brown with the FBI and was prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Hydee Hawkins from the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Kentucky and Trial Attorney Angie Cha from the Civil Rights Division.